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How Femme Invisibility Kills Sex And Social Interactions

To assume that queer women MUST present a certain way erases the existence of a whole host of people who love dresses, and pink drinks.

23/01/2017 04:56 SAST | Updated 23/01/2017 08:53 SAST
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Femme invisibility: the idea that, as a feminine presenting woman, you are not really a queer/lesbian unless you are knuckle deep in another woman at that very moment.

The notion stems from the idea that you must 'look a certain way', and one must constantly prove their queerness. That you need to have the funky hair, the hat, the skinny jeans or the ability to do the Instagram selfie 'come hither' eyebrow.

Various things tend to happen when you are feminine presenting and into other women. Outside of the queer community people tend to think you're either: 1. Going through a phase 2. Faking it to trap the studs. 3. So confused you got lost and ended up in the wrong sexuality and are really straight.

It is always a case of 'prove it' and one of the major problems with this that it leads to the othering and the ostracizing of queer femme presenting women.

Femme phobia and the privilege of 'femme invisibility'

A friend once spoke about how she witnessed a conversation in which two feminine women who were dating were asked by another queer woman: "how do you even have sex? do you swap lipsticks or something?"

Within queer communities one often finds the replication of what are termed 'heteronormative tendencies': the idea that one must 'be the man' and one must 'be the woman'. This leads to a whole host of backlash for ideas such as 'butch for butch' (when two masculine presenting women are attracted to each other) or a femme woman being dominant in bed. The idea is entrenched that one must play their gender role in a relationship, even when they are two women.

The problem with femme invisibility is that it presumes a norm, even within the supposedly 'abnormal'.

This is to say two women, essentially, could not be together.

Another qualm those within the queer community have is the idea of femme privilege. There is no doubt that in hostile contexts there are perks to being femme presenting. You are afforded the ability to manoeuvre with little hassle that comes with being masculine presenting or gender non-conforming. You do not get the hard and fast comments and questions about your sexuality.

And much as there are perks there are are also disadvantages, having one doubt your identity for one. The problem with this is the constant 'coming out'. You have to constantly reassert that one part of their identity in different spaces. This is all very well and good if you do not want anyone to know but the times when you do, it is a real problem, and makes dating and interacting really hard.

Expanding your queer social circle is hard enough without it being compounded by the fact that those you are trying to see can't see you. Furthermore, in a context where identifying as queer could have you losing jobs, getting kicked out of homes and even physically harmed in your own community, these signals and forms of connecting are potentially very powerful.

The problem with femme invisibility is that it presumes a norm, even within the supposedly 'abnormal'. There is an issues with freedom of self when women are accused of presenting in this manner in order to 'actively access a privilege' rather than because that is how they are. It stems from a conclusion that there is one way to present sexuality to the world despite the fact that not all people will be the same.

To assume that women who are queer will automatically present a certain way erases the existence of a whole host of people who love dresses, pink drinks whilst also seeing another woman naked. It erases the existence of the woman who wears converse trainers and lipstick. It also further entrenches heteronormative ideas of presentation and women, that only those who don the mantle of masculinity are entitled to access to the sex and sexuality of another woman.

It also makes it very hard to find someone's face to sit on a Saturday night.